James Earl Chaney

James Earl Chaney

Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, USA
Death 21 Jun 1964 (aged 21)
Neshoba, Neshoba County, Mississippi, USA
Burial Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, USA
Memorial ID 6442194 · View Source
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Murder Victim, Civil Rights Worker. Born in Meridian, Mississippi the son of Ben and Fannie Lee Chaney Sr. James shared his parents with three sisters and a brother. While in high school, he and other students began wearing paper patches reading "NAACP", showing their support for the national civil rights organization, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, that had been founded in 1910. A non violent demonstrator, James participated in "freedom rides". James began volunteering in late 1963, and joined the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Meridian. He helped organize voter education classes, introduced CORE workers to local church leaders, and helped CORE workers get around the counties. In 1964, James began working with Michael Schwerner, he met with leaders of the Mt. Nebo Baptist Church to gain their support to encourage them to use the church for voter education and registration. He and Michael had spent time meeting with leaders at the Mount Zion Methodist Church before they reached an agreement to host events there. They hoped that these programs would help African Americans in Neshoba County, the county was a poor, rural area. After learning that the Mount Zion church had burned down and its members had been beaten by the Klu Klux Klan, a white supremacist group. Andrew Goodman, a young volunteer, also joined James and Michael on the trip back to Mississippi. On June 21, James was arrested by the police for speeding. He and his two companions were brought to the Neshoba County jail where they were held for several hours. It was later proven in court that a conspiracy existed between members of Neshoba County's law enforcement and the Ku Klux Klan to murder them. However, without being allowed a phone call before leaving the station, they were considered missing. Their disappearance made national headlines, because Chaney's two companions were young white men. This was the first well-publicized incident involving whites. While the media attention swirled around the case the local and state law enforcement chose to ignore the case. President Lyndon Johnson called in the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate. It was 44 days later when their bodies were discovered at the earthen dam on the Old Jolly Farm near Philadelphia, Mississippi. The three men had been shot to death. Local and state law enforcement refused to investigate the murders of the three CORE members, claiming a lack of evidence. The federal government stepped in and pursued civil rights charges against a group of men, including several law enforcement officers. Of the original 18 men charged in connection with the case, only seven men in 1967 were convicted on federal conspiracy charges and given sentences of three to ten years, but none of the men convicted served more than six years. Not one of them was tried on the charge of murder. When the movie "Mississippi Burning" was released in 1988, the interest in the murders were renewed. Thanks to Jerry Mitchell a reporter with the Clarion-Ledger, the case was once again reviewed in the late 1990's. One of the original defendants, Edgar Ray Killen, was charged in connection with the murders. He was a local Klan leader and a Methodist minister at the time of the killings. Killen had been acquitted in the 1967 civil rights trial because one of the jurors refused to convict a preacher. This time around, however, Killen was found guilty of manslaughter in a 2005 trial and sentenced to 60 years in prison. He had been the main instigator of the 1964 murders of the three men. James was only 21 years old when he was murdered.

Bio by: Memorial Flower

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Cinnamonntoast4
  • Added: 23 May 2002
  • Find a Grave Memorial 6442194
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for James Earl Chaney (30 May 1943–21 Jun 1964), Find a Grave Memorial no. 6442194, citing Okatibee Cemetery, Meridian, Lauderdale County, Mississippi, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .